Nokia N91 – first impressions

SIM CardBack in the old days, switching your mobile phone was easier: you just popped your SIM card out of the old one and threw it into the new one. That only works if your telephone numbers are actually stored on the SIM card. Since these cards still have ridiculously little storage space (250 numbers of max 16 characters) , you’re tempted to just use the phone instead for storing your data. My Samsung phone had a function ‘copy SIM to phone’ so that’s what I did. Unfortunately it did not have a ‘copy phone memory to SIM’. It took me a couple of hours, spread over 2-3 days, to figure out a way to get the numbers on the SIM so they turn up on my Nokia N91. The Bluetooth connectivity on the Samsung never worked great for synchronisation, but eventually I figured out a way to export and re-import my numbers.The Nokia, on the other hand, does not have a ‘copy the whole SIM to memory’ function so I have to do it one by one. Oh well…

Nokia N91 mini USB
A first look at the connectivity of the N91 gives a very complete impression:

  • serial connectivity with a standard mini-USB cable – brilliant: now I can use the same cable for this phone and my Canon digital camera. One less cable to carry.
  • Bluetooth – the evident close-range wireless option
  • 802.11g Wifi connection: only for browsing (not for synchronisation) but still impressive. More on that later.

But the first thing I looked at, was the power supply. Nokia was always the brand that never changed its power supply adaptor from one model to the next. I always admired them for that, since every other phone manufacturer seems to suffer from the YAPS (Yet Another Power Supply) syndrome. (How hard can that be? Just tell the designers: we only make phones with this power plug. It’s a concentric 5V adaptor. Deal with it, already!) The bad news is: this time they changed it. The good news is: it’s backwards compatible (they’ve put an adaptor cable in the package). Why they had to make it smaller, I have no idea. Maybe the think they might make devices that are thinner than 3mm.

When you insert the mini USB into the phone, it gives you the choice to connect:

  • as a portable music player: this makes (in my case) Windows Media Player pop up and synchronize my music files.
  • as a smart phone (using Nokia’s “PC Suite” software): this is for synchronising with your local contacts, calendar, … It also gets the pictures and videos from the phone, and allows you to send SMS through your phone.
  • Nokia N91: external HDas an external disk drive:so you can throw anything on the 4GB hard drive. Some of the folders have familar names (Pictures, Videos), but I guess you could cause some wreckage by fooling around in the ‘private’ or ‘resource’ folder.

I had forgotten what it felt like to have my calendar on an electronic device. I stopped using a PalmPilot 5 years ago and since then I had to trust my memory and a huge paper agenda for my schedule. I now started using the Outlook calendar again and it syncs nicely with the N91.

Jacqmotte building
There is a 2 megapixel camera in the N91. The pictures are quite sharp, although the colours are sometimes a bit off. There are artefacts around sharp colour transitions (due to compression, maybe). The zoom is clearly a digital zoom. But then again if you’re very picky about your pictures, buy a D200 and stop whining. Anyway, the task of taking pictures until your phone memory is ‘full’ is quite hard. It keeps on showing > 999 images left. Even when I started recording movies, which fills up the 4GB memory faster, I never got an indication of running out of memory.
The video camera is also a good feature. I started taping some footage of the Brussels Tango festival this weekend and the result is acceptable, certainly with the little light that was available. When fiddling with the settings, I involuntary switched it over to a smaller size (176×144140Kbps instead of 352×266542 Kbps). What was more surprising is that the file format then also switches from .MP4 (MPEG4 encoding) to .3GP (3rd gen Mobile Video). The small format doesn’t look like much, but that’s probably not the Nokia’s fault (.25 megapixel is not a lot).
In the highest resolution setting, 4GB of disk space gives you almost a day of recording (but only 1 hour at a time), the smaller one gives you more than 2 days of footage.

Next post will be on the musical features of the N91.

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